XENIA — Different, an adjustment, think in a different way, and difficult in adapting were phrases often used when teacher and students at Legacy Christian Academy described how the first week of distance learning went.
While many other districts began their coronavirus-induced homeschooling in the middle of March, Legacy was on spring break, and extended that until last Thursday when students first checked in from home.
Nobody fell in love with the idea of distance learning, but all are focused on making it work.
“I’ve always been a very responsible student so this is just different, not hard,” said 10th grader Ashley Bush. “The most difficult part is the workload feels double. It has been hard to stay organized how I would like. Not everything works online like it should. Because of this, I have to stop working on what I am (doing), which disrupts my train of thought.”
But she sees a positive coming out of the sudden change.
“I enjoy working at my own pace like we are able to do for most assignments,” Bush said. “I’m also able to sleep until 8 a.m. instead of waking up at 6:30.”
Bush’s mother, Julie, is a teacher at Legacy. She said distance learning makes her think in a different way when prepping lessons.
“It is much easier to adapt lessons in class to the variety of learners,” she said. “Teaching online is definitely difficult in adapting the lessons for struggling learners. I also know that for second graders, they need much more than paper pencil work. In class, we have ‘activity’ so that students are often up and out of their seats. I want to be cautious of only assigning paper pencil work for at home learning while being considerate of the time it may take parents to help complete assignments that require more of their help.”
For Lindsay Smith, who teaches an advanced math course, planning requires her to be a step ahead of the students.
“I have to anticipate the questions the students will ask, and which concepts will need clarification,” Smith said. “It’s hard to know whether they are understanding the lecture without getting their feedback during a live class or being able to pause to answer their questions.”
Cindi Pickens stopped short of calling it difficult. But it’s changed what she likes to do during the final grading period.
“We usually spend a lot of time in the fourth quarter doing science experiments and journaling about them,” Pickens said. “It’s a lot of hands on and independent learning. I’m really disappointed that we can’t do that right now. It’s usually an exciting time for me as a teacher because the excitement I see on students’ faces is just great. I am thinking how I can do some of those things in this time of distance learning.”
Unlike being in the school building all day, where there are few distractions, teachers and students find it a struggle to stay focused at times.
“Honestly there are many distractions that can knock me off course when I’m doing my work at home,” seventh grader Stephanie Wharton said. “(But) I always put on some music to keep me focused on what I’m doing to get rid of any distractions.”
Destiny Baker said her biggest distraction is having the whole family at home.
“I have a three and five-year-old who don’t understand why mommy can’t play with them all day long,” Baker said. “Everyday is like a Saturday to them where they’re used to me being home and doing things with them. My husband is also working from home and has his own work responsibilities so we have had to get creative in how we divide our work time. We’re figuring it out, but the most important thing I’ve realized is the importance of setting boundaries. I have to make myself separate my work life and home life. When I’m working, I’m focused and using my time to the best of my ability. When I’m with my family, I try to give them my full attention. It’s been challenging, but we’re figuring it out.”
Face-to-face interaction seemed to be the one thing everyone missed the first week.
“At school you can go to the teacher after class to ask questions or even while sitting in class,” Ashley Bush said. “Online you have to wait for a response from an email.”
Added Wharton, “One thing that is not normal to me is that I can’t see the people I normally hang out with everyday. Some of the people that make me laugh until I start crying are not at an arms length away any more. Not being able to ask questions without an immediate answer is one thing that has kind of changed how I learn.”
And there are many positives.
“I am able to keep the pace of the class on track since there are no distractions, fire drills, snow days, or other interferences,” Smith said. “I am still teaching the same content and will achieve the same goals by the end of the year, but it has taken some thoughtful planning to make adjustments to the distance learning model.”
Wharton thinks distance learning will help prepare for the future.
“I’m not a fan of what distance learning is going to look like, but as I get more used to the program I’d say it’d become like a step up to education for students,” she said. “In high school and college I will need to be able to know how to do online classes and this is getting me ready for those years of my life.”